How the history of unmarried Quebec women forced to give up their children inspired Joanna Goodman's new novel
In The Home for Unwanted Girls, Joanna Goodman looks back at a period in Quebec history when unwed mothers were forced to give their children up for adoption. The novel follows the story of a teenage girl forced by her family to give up her baby. Years later, both she and the daughter she gave up search to find each other.
The seeds of a story
"The seeds of The Home for Unwanted Girls were this love story between French and English people. I was inspired by my mom's childhood. She was the daughter of a poor French-Canadian woman and her father was an Anglo-Saxon who had a seed store. Her first language was French, but her father made them go to English school. That's the era I wanted to capture."
"My research of the era was my entry into reading about Maurice Duplessis and the Duplessis Orphan scandal. He was Quebec's premier and, overnight, orphanages in the province were turned into mental institutions and the orphans were declared mentally insane and shipped off to real mental institutions. These were perfectly healthy children who had been getting an education and many ended up becoming what they were told they were. That happened because the federal government paid more in subsidies to mental institutions than they did to orphans — there was my story. I had the setting, I had the era, but when I read about the orphans, I knew I had the story."
Joanna Goodman's comments have been edited and condensed.